Contactability Versus SPAMbots: What to do?

Here’s an issue that both touches on usability, as well as this blog itself:

A visitor to this blog noted the lack of contact information (such as my email address) in plain view. My answer to him was that this is partly on purpose. As many people know, when you leave your email address on a web page, software that is designed to harvest email addresses can easily grab that address and put it in SPAM databases. I learned from my Kendall Group web site that doing this resulted in a nearly unusable email address (ddrucker@ that address is constantly inundated with hundreds of SPAM a day, and only after I completely removed it and put up a ‘closed for business’ page up has this begun to let up , but not entirely).

There are some solutions for this problem, but I’m not sure which to adopt. Here are the ones I know of:

  1. List my address as ‘name “at” domain name’ , rather than an address that is actually written out. This is inconvenient, and relies on the ability of people to figure it out (and machines to be unable to – I’m not sure if they have improved the SPAMbots so that they can get around this). It’s a relatively simple but user unfriendly solution, that is potentially useless if the software has been made more ‘intelligent’ to get around this subterfuge.
  2. Create a ‘Contact Me’ form for the initial email, much like a comment, but on it’s own page and with a simple mailto form script. While it’s not particularly elegant (and mailto scripts have their own security problems), it might do the trick. Again, there’s no guarantee that SPAMers might find a way around this one.
  3. Include the text “To contact me, please use a comment.” somewhere on the home page. This is easiest, and would have a pretty good chance of getting by the SPAMbots. It is, however, less ‘friendly’, since initial communications would be public and not everyone likes having their opening communication visible to all (even though I can actually choose to not publish the comment and still respond via email).
  4. Years ago I’d heard of services where email sent to an address for the first time required the sender to validate themselves (essentially respond to a link in an automatic responder email). I’ve forgotten what it was called, but it sounds good in this case, but I’m not sure what kind of reaction it might cause (since it puts most of the responsibility upon the person who is initially trying to get in touch to verify that they are not a SPAMer)

So, there is my quandary: How to make myself more ‘contactable’ without opening up the door to the inevitable flood of SPAM. I already receive about 2-300 SPAMs a day from my old address, so this is no small issue. I know that there are probably some other solutions, but I do not want to run extra SPAM software on my Mac, and do not want to have to buy a PC to run SPAM software either. I want to stop or discourage these emails before they are sent, not have something sift through my mail to remove them afterward. I sometimes access my email from the road via webmail, so extra SPAM-filtering software doesn’t help there.

Any ideas?

2 thoughts on “Contactability Versus SPAMbots: What to do?

  1. Hi Pete,

    Thanks for the tip. I’ll give it a try. I also recently saw a plugin that puts a contact form on as well. First, I’m still struggling with trying to install gallery2. The auto-installer at dreamhost consistently hangs (3rd attempt now) at the 4th or 5th step, so I’m going to try and install the whole thing manually. What pain!

    It was good to see you again at the blogger meetup.

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